Monthly Archives: May 2009

Lack of training

Only 73 miles of running for the month of May. And this on only 3 runs (2 50K races and 1 11 mile training run). Not so good. On the upside, I biked 404 miles this month. Can’t wait for this bike commuting thing to end.

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Forest Park 50K

Yesterday I ran PCTR’s Forest Park Trail Run 50K, my local ultramarathon. Conventional wisdom says trail running is better on your feet and legs than road running because dirt is softer than concrete and asphalt. I beg to differ.

Most of this 50K was on the Wildwood trail in Forest Park, with small sections on Saltzman Road, Firelane 5, and a 10K loop around a section of Forest Park I didn’t know. Wildwood trail is a great trail. I love running it. I especially love running it the day after it’s rained or even while it’s raining. The trail gets mushy and I get muddy. It’s great. But in the week leading up to this 50K it hadn’t rained in Portland all week. Wildwood got downright hard as concrete. Factor in the uneven terrain and the course beat me up pretty good.

Going into the race my strategy was to take it easy and enjoy the day. I haven’t been training as much as I like due to bike commuting. So I set my goal time for 6 hours. I was trailing Van most of the first 20K of the run which made me a little cocky. If I can keep up with her I’m doing okay. But that usually mean she’ll drop me later on. At about the 21K mark I flew past her and a group of 3 others taking the downhill on Firelane 5 way too aggressively, which sent me into the 10K loop section feeling really good. I hit the halfway mark at about 2:35. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with this pace so I revised my goal time for 5:30, leaving me with a little less than 3 hours to finish the second half. I was able to keep up with a very strong female runner for most of this section up until we hit the uphill parts. My weakness is ascents, which I learned at Mac that I need to work on. Going back up Firelane 5, Van and others caught up with me and proceeding to leave me in the dust. By the time I got back to Wildwood, my left knee and right foot were bothering me enough that I resorted to doing the running-then-walking form of ultramarathoning. Even with the foot and knee problems I felt like this was a pretty successful run. Usually with any run there’s a point where I’m questioning why I do this to myself. I always end up with the same answer, but there’s always the question. Not today. No doubts at all. I just kept motoring along enjoying the day, the trails, and taking a few seconds to try to spot the Pileated Woodpecker I heard.

Going past Stone House meant I was about a mile to go to the finish. Physically I was feeling beat up the mentally I was feeling good. I cross the finish line at 5:23:56 to beat my revised goal time.

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McDonald Forest 50K

This year I decided I was going to try to get in as many Oregon Trail Series races as I could. Yesterday’s McDonald Forest 50K was the second of three I’ve signed up for. I registered months ago thinking I had plenty of time to train and prepare. But student teaching, bike commuting 10 miles each way, and dealing with a foot problem related to bike commuting seriously cut into my free time allotted to training. The foot problem was especially frustrating since the injury occurred because I couldn’t get my foot out of the pedal clips fast enough before I fell over. I twisted my foot which tweaked the top of my foot right above the arch. The result of that incredibly stupid mistake was to make any run more than a few miles painful. So for the 6 weeks leading up to Mac I ran ~52 miles, 34 of them at the Peterson Ridge Rumble exactly 6 weeks earlier. I should have been running about 50 miles/week. The one good thing about bike commuting, though, was that during that time I logged about 500 miles on the bike. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at Mac.

I woke up at 4am planning on hitting the road a 5:15 to make it to Corvallis by 7. The schedule went according to plan. However, I realized as I was leaving Portland on I-5 that I forgot my handheld water bottle even though I remembered to fill it with water before heading out the door. D’oh! Then I remembered there was an empty 16-ounce bottle that has been living in the car somewhere for months. That would have to do.

I got to Peavy Arboretum right on schedule, checked-in, said “hi” to a few runners I knew from other races, and got my gear ready to go. At the start I was a bit nervous and excited. Nervous because I had no idea how my foot would hold up. My plan was to evaluate at every aid station. I tend not to push myself to injury, I’m a conservative runner, so I decided if it got painful I would DNF. I was also excited since I haven’t been running much at all and was eager to get out on the trails and enjoy the fabulous day.

Word was this race can be challenging. The elevation gain is 6700 feet with a lot of climbs, descents, and more climbs. And the rain a few days before meant muddy trails. The first half of the race felt great. It was absolutely great to be back running. The foot felt fine. I got to aid station 1 and didn’t even think about DNF’ing. Between aid stations 1 and 2 I started to wonder what all the fuss was about Mac being a challenging course. By the time I hit aid station 2 I was still feeling great. Then at about mile 15 I started to enter a world of pain. At that point I figured I was at the halfway point and mentally I decided to slog though it.

I heard from another runner that aid station 3 at Dimple Hill had a Big Lebowski theme. I’ve never seen the movie so I didn’t know what to expect. So I roll into aid station 3, this guy in a purple satiny leisure suit asks if I need my bottle filled with water or HEED, then another guy ask me if I need a white Russian. I ask “you’re kidding, right?” The woman behind the table says “no” then hands me a sub-Dixie cup concoction that looks like a white Russian. I down it to verify, and yes, it was indeed a white Russian. I down some chips and Oreos and head out. Then I wonder if the white Russian was a good idea over the course of the next mile. I conclude that at least it wasn’t as bad of an idea as running a 50K on a questionable foot and little preparation.

The last third of the race actually becomes enjoyable, which is typical of the range of emotions that goes through my mind during these races. I have a nice conversation with Mehmet, who’s run this race a number of times and gives me some veteran advice (save some gas for later, there’s more uphills towards the end). I tell him I’m targeting 6:30 and he tells me I should have it easily. We get to aid station 4 together but he leaves me behind while I’m downing M&M’s and Oreos. I’ll catch him before hitting aid station 5, by which time I’m feeling great. Legs and feet hurt but I’m edging toward euphoria. The folks at aid station 5 tell me it’s a little over a mile uphill, then all downhill after that. Nice! I’ve got Cheri Redwine up ahead of me who I’m targeting. But she must be feeling a little bit better than I am because she’s charging ahead faster than I am. At this point I figure I have 6:30 as long as nothing disastrous happens. Luckily, nothing does, and I roll into the finish at 6:28:51. Sweet!

It’s the day after and I’m as sore as I felt after my first marathon. I’m having trouble going up and down stairs, getting up from sitting, and sitting down. Mac really was a challenging course. But I’m feeling really good about my time and my effort, especially since I thought I was in terrible shape for an ultra. Actually, I think I was in okay shape, but the lack of training resulted in a lack of confidence in tackling the uphills and more importantly, taking on the descents a lot more conservatively than I could have. Experience and training, especially hill training, isn’t just about training muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There’s that psychological training taking place as well. I really need to get outside more.

Next up… Forest Park 50K in two weeks!

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